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  • Growing Algae...

    I'm starting this thread to discuss the growing of Algae, be it for food consumption, fuel production or for other purposes.

    I’m personally looking at the food consumption area of Algae growing, I’ll be using this thread to post links to resources that I have found.

    The one thing that I have noticed when doing my research is that there is a lot of varying information, even conflicting information. Take Spirulina (AKA Spirulina platensis, AKA Arthrospira platensis), I’ve read articles stating that optimal growth temp is at 35C (which some say will kill the algae) other’s as low as 18-24C (which others say will slow down the growth and isn’t optimal).

    Getting cultures is another problem area, first it’s deciding which culture to get. UTEX has a number of cultures, but figuring out which one to get for human consumption is a problem as I’ve read of different types being used. Some labs have them, in the case of UTEX they have multiple of the same type from different ares, while other labs don’t have any. Then you have the cost, each culture sample isn’t cheap, especially if one is trying to keep the experimentation costs down.

    I’m looking to test and use a number of differ methods as discussed in this forum, e.g., LED lights, magnetic fields, grow plates etc.

    Anyway some good links:
    Basic Photo Bio Reactor examples: AlgaeGeek.com

    Bio Reactor research paper:
    Gueguin-Kana et al. Constructional features of a 15-litre home-made bioreactor for fed-batch fermentations. Afr. J. Biotechnol. 2003 August;2(8):233-236. [Full text]
    Bio Reactor Low Cost

    Manual on the Production and Use of Live Food for Aquaculture (this book, available free online seams to be where some online sellers are getting their information, that they turn around and sell in ebook form)
    Table of Contents


    The following is quite a good page covering a lot of area from stock solutions and media preparations to freezing culture for storage.
    Culturing information | NIES Collection

    Patent: An Economical and Efficient Method for Mass Production of Spirulina
    (WO/2006/018668) AN ECONOMICAL AND EFFICIENT METHOD FOR MASS PRODUCTION OF SPIRULINA

    Couple of more research papers:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti...00019-0101.pdf
    ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/011/i0424e/i0424e00.pdf
    Last edited by Savvypro; 01-19-2011, 10:31 AM.
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  • #2
    Cyanotech grow their spirulina using sea water, food-grade baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and carbon dioxide. They also add some Food grade fertilisers.

    Just found the following paper which lists over 40 Spirulina cultures and where they are located all in a single easy to access file:
    Arthrospira ([]Spirulina&rsquo strains from four continents are resolved into only two clusters, based on amplified ribosomal DNA restriction analysis of the internally transcribed spacer - Scheldeman - 2006 - FEMS Microbiology Letters - Wiley Onli

    A lot of the Culture Collections of the World listed in one place:
    Home Pages of Culture Collections in the World

    Another site with good information:
    Index
    ...

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    • #3
      One of the growing media that a lot of the culture labs use is Ultramarine Synthetica sea salts (made by Waterlife - waterlife.co.uk). Its salt used to setup marine aquariums.

      For those in the US, that are some distance from the sea - a company called Catalina Water Company, LLC (see: catalinawater.com) ships filtered sea water.

      The cheapest option would be to buy dryed sea minerals (compared to shipping sea water) and makeing your own sea water. One company that sells sea minerals is seaagri.com, they mine it at the same location Dr. Murray (who wrote Sea Energy Agriculture) got his sea minerals from.
      Last edited by Savvypro; 01-19-2011, 09:30 PM.
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      • #4
        This is a superb thread, Savvy. I've been wondering what to do about a Spirulina supply, what with Codex Alimentarius looming on the horizon.

        I'll follow your information and progress carefully.

        Thanks

        Vic
        I know that you are part of me and I am part of you because we are all aspects of the same infinite consciousness that we call God and Creation.
        David Icke

        My website PATHS-Life4Living How PATHS Works

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        • #5
          Vic,

          Welcome to the green side. It's nice to know someone else is also interested in this area.

          Anyway, back to my listing of info (if anyone else has anything to contribute - please do).

          As I stated above, I'm going to be testing LED's, but I will also be using natural sunlight (you can’t beat free). The only issue is blocking UV and possibly inferred (heat, especially in the summer - as I’m planning on doing this in doors).

          I found a UV coating called “Digi Coat UV Protection Sublimation Coating”, it looks like it’s mainly for printing type work. But I wonder if it could be used to coat an acrylic sheet to be used as a filter (as acrylic has very good optical properties, less light distortion), to reduce UV wavelengths.

          I know that there are light systems which remove UV and inferred, then pipe the light via fibre optics to the end locations. I’d only consider that in a diy situation if I can find good cheap filters and cheap fibre optic cable. As these light systems cost a lot and I’m trying to keep this low cost and easy to build and run.

          I’m planing on growing the algae in "bioreactors" that I build, if I go down the tube style reactor, then I’ll be rolling my own - literally, as sheet acrylic is a lot cheaper than tube acrylic.

          This may come up later so I’ll preempt the question by answering it. To learn how to work with acrylic, just do a google search on: how to build an acrylic fish tank. Most of that information will come in handy. The only sticking point is on the acrylic solvent that is normally used in the tutorials. In the USA they normally use Weldon, for those outside the USA you’ll need something like: Tensol Cement Adhesive (for those in the UK I’ve just saved you the leg work). Or just ask your acrylic supplier for what they recommend, if your supplier doesn't know, ask them or their acrylic manufacture for the manual on how to use the acrylic.

          Also there are limits to the water volume you can have in a single extruded acrylic tank/tube/reactor/container. If you're planning on a large volume per tank/tube/reactor/container you'll need to get and use cast acrylic - I.e. clear cast acrylic, it's more expensive but it's also stronger than extruded acrylic. If you’re just sticking to smaller volumes then you’ll be fine with the extruded acrylic (this information is also covered in some tutorials on how to build fish tanks).

          That's it for now, back to my research and ebay bargain hunting.
          Last edited by Savvypro; 01-20-2011, 08:43 AM.
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          • #6
            I'm interested in this also. Thanks so much for providing so much information. Is all spirulina grown by man or is there also a natural source and if so, where does it normally grow? The answer to this may help with determining the right temperature. 35C seems like a pretty high temperature to me for algae growth, but I can see where nature may not provide the ideal environment for maximizing production.
            My reality does not equal your reality, but my reality is neither > nor < your reality.
            http://www.intergate.com/~bsmutz/images/earth11.jpg

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            • #7
              Originally posted by ImBill View Post
              I'm interested in this also. Thanks so much for providing so much information. Is all spirulina grown by man or is there also a natural source and if so, where does it normally grow? The answer to this may help with determining the right temperature. 35C seems like a pretty high temperature to me for algae growth, but I can see where nature may not provide the ideal environment for maximizing production.
              It grows naturally in a lot of places. The peoples in the Republic of Chad collect the algae from the lakes for food consumption.

              In the following paper: Spirulina, the edible microorganism. (see here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC283708/). It details the Chad example above as well as how the native people of Mexico, during the time of the Conquistadors - harvested algae and made bread from it.
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              • #8
                It seams a lot of the leg work has been done by a Dr. Ripley D. Fox who wrote: Spirulina: Production & Potential - (ISBN 2 85744 853 X). It doesn't seam to be available on any non French book sites.
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                • #9
                  How to build a laminar flow hood:
                  - Lotte & Thomas Orchids
                  - Laminar Flow Hood - Build a HEPA filter flowhood | Fungifun

                  Using a laminar flow hood for Spirulina production may be over the top, especially if you keep the pH high - at about 10ish. But if you want to also grow say Chlorella or Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), they would need to be grown in a sterile environment. So as to avoid contamination by unwanted algae and bacteria. That's when the laminar flow hood would be required, you would also need to filter the air being pumped into the grow media - an example filter is shown in the: Manual on the Production and Use of Live Food for Aquaculture - which I linked to in my opening post.

                  For Chlorella and Aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA), you basicly need to filter everything as both algae grow in "normal" water conditions which are the same water conditions in which other algae (some toxic) and bacteria normally grow in. Enclosed bioreactors with everything going in it being filtered, would be the way to do it.


                  On the Spirulina culture, you want to make sure that you get only spiral Spirulina as the non spiral Spirulina is a mutation. Also the spiral is what allows for the Spirulina to float, while the non spiral mutation doesn't float as well.

                  This floating phenomena is something to remember when building/setting up your grow container (whatever form it takes).

                  Another interesting phenomena is that light penetration past 4 inches of thick Spirulina falls off sharply.

                  One (1) square meter of pond grow area will yield from 5 to 10 grams a day of Spirulina. I've read that bioreactors are more efficient than ponds, and produce a greater yield. The ponds are mainly used because they are cheaper to setup compared to bioreactors.



                  Two more references:
                  Cultivez Votre Spiruline (its in French - google translate doesn't translate everything. If anyone who can read French could translate the document, that would be greatly appreciated):
                  - http://pagesperso-orange.fr/petites-...les/Manuel.pdf

                  - http://www.technap-spiruline.org/

                  Growing spirulina (a teaching module):
                  - http://www.antenna.ch/en/documents/Modu_UK.pdf

                  The above document was taken from the following site:
                  - Documents | Antenna Technologies Foundation
                  Last edited by Savvypro; 01-21-2011, 01:25 PM.
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                  • #10
                    kool video

                    YouTube - A Shipload of Algae
                    See my experiments here...
                    http://www.youtube.com/marthale7

                    You do not have to prove something for it to be true. However, you do have to prove something for others to believe it true.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by theremart View Post
                      From the image of the alage they showed in the video it looks to be an algae called Scenedesmus.

                      From the the algae lab forum I found the following (as well as the phenomena I listed above).

                      The amount of algae needed to run a 5kW generator (the interesting bit is in blue):

                      Biofuels:
                      1. Is the biofuels a gas or liquid?
                      Can be either, algae generate oils, and/or they can be digested for biogas.
                      2. How big of a system would be needed to fuel a 5K gen-set system underground?
                      5kW @ 25% efficiency (typical) = 20kW * 3600 seconds/hr = 72MJ/hr; this means roughly 2L of biodiesel; if algae generate 10g of oil/m^2/day, you'd need about 180 square meters of algae per hour you want to run the genny.
                      3. I then can utilize its exhaust and exhaust heat
                      Yes, many algae grow faster when warm.
                      4. Would this be a pressurized system to feed the gen-set?
                      if you're making biogas & running a propane genny, a blower is needed to push the gas into the engine.
                      5. For Diesel or regular engines usage?
                      Biodiesel for diesel gen is what I'd recommend.
                      6. The underground system will have all air filtered throughout entry and exit.
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by theremart View Post
                        From the image of the algae they showed in the video it looks to be an algae called Scenedesmus. The name on the tube in the second part of the video was Botryococcus braunii - both species of algae area being tested and used for biofule production.

                        From the the algae lab forum I found the following (as well as the phenomena I listed above).

                        The amount of algae needed to run a 5kW generator (the interesting bit is in blue):

                        Biofuels:
                        1. Is the biofuels a gas or liquid?
                        Can be either, algae generate oils, and/or they can be digested for biogas.
                        2. How big of a system would be needed to fuel a 5K gen-set system underground?
                        5kW @ 25% efficiency (typical) = 20kW * 3600 seconds/hr = 72MJ/hr; this means roughly 2L of biodiesel; if algae generate 10g of oil/m^2/day, you'd need about 180 square meters of algae per hour you want to run the genny.
                        3. I then can utilize its exhaust and exhaust heat
                        Yes, many algae grow faster when warm.
                        4. Would this be a pressurized system to feed the gen-set?
                        if you're making biogas & running a propane genny, a blower is needed to push the gas into the engine.
                        5. For Diesel or regular engines usage?
                        Biodiesel for diesel gen is what I'd recommend.
                        6. The underground system will have all air filtered throughout entry and exit.
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                        • #13
                          I did a major search for the Ripley Fox book - nothing Except as you say a seller in France. I really don't like their payment methods though.

                          There must be a copy of that book out there somewhere that we can get our hands on.

                          You're doing great work, Savvy. I am going to take seriously the idea of growing my own - once you've done the hard work that is
                          I know that you are part of me and I am part of you because we are all aspects of the same infinite consciousness that we call God and Creation.
                          David Icke

                          My website PATHS-Life4Living How PATHS Works

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by life4living View Post
                            I did a major search for the Ripley Fox book - nothing Except as you say a seller in France. I really don't like their payment methods though.

                            There must be a copy of that book out there somewhere that we can get our hands on.

                            You're doing great work, Savvy. I am going to take seriously the idea of growing my own - once you've done the hard work that is
                            I've emailed Dr. Fox asking if his book is out of print and if he could sell it as an ebook - we'll see if he replies (if the email address is correct).

                            The link for the pdf called "Cultivez Votre Spiruline" (that I posted above) - it's a complete manual on how to grow Spirulina. The only issue is that it's in French, and my French is worse than googles.

                            If I don't receive a reply from Dr. Fox, I'll see if my aunt can translate the book.

                            For those in The USA, I have good news for you - a group called AlgaeLab (see: algaelab.org) do live workshops on how to grow Spiruline and biofuel. The workshops take place in Santa Cruz and LA - though they seam to keep rescheduling all the workshops - and it looks like one hasn't taken place in a long time. On their website they have a diy kit you can buy, costs $199 - you should be able to get most of the kit cheaper elsewhere. The tank isn't included, so you need to find a local pet shop which sells fish tanks if you want to go down the fish tank route.

                            They sell a Live Spirulina Starter culture separately at $49, for that price you get a 1 liter bottle of Spirulina shipped to you (shipping and handling included). $49 for a 1 liter bottle is the best price I have seen, as some culture labs will charge you upwards of $150 even $500 for that amount of culture.

                            If your not going to mix your own nutrients/medium that you need to feed the algae with, they also sell that.

                            Going through their forum which doesn't have that many posts - seams deserted. It looks like they are basing a lot of what they do on the information in the pdf: "Growing spirulina (a teaching module)" which I linked to in a previous post above.

                            For those in the USA, possibly Canada, you can get started.
                            ...

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                            • #15
                              As I've been doing my research, I've been keeping a running list in my head of the things that I may need to get. I'm putting it hear to have as a reference for others who are following along.

                              Container for the algae to grow in:
                              To start out I'm thinking of just buying some see through drinks bottles from a wholesale bottles company, as the family and I don't buy enough clear bottles to be able to start. If I were to go out and buy say water bottles from the corner shop, it will be more expensive.

                              Update: I'll be heading to Tesco to buy their own brand still water, which is 0.17p a 2l bottle - Asda is 0.16p a bottle but the bus fair (as I don't have a local one) will put it over the top, compared to Tesco which is a 10 minute walk from me.

                              Building the bioreactor out of acrylic will come later, once I have a workable growing system in place.


                              Nutrients/medium:
                              I'm thinking* of ordering some sea minerals to make seawater at home, then getting some food-grade baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and some iron supplement. To keep the process simple, and not have to order a whole bunch of different chemicals and then mixing them together.

                              * Before I order the sea minerals, I'll be doing the figures to see if it is cost effective to do so or to actually mix my own artificial nutrients/medium from locally available sources.


                              Means of stirring/moving :
                              Aquarium air pump, will also be building a silencer - basically a container with a lot of foam into which the air pump will go in. The reason being is that some air pumps make a lot of noise (and I do mean a lot of noise, especially if I'm going to be buying cheap ones).

                              The air pump can also be used to make uplift tubes, which can be used to pump out or circulate the water/Spirulina (or other algae). With just the up-flow of air through the tube. If you go with the pond type setup, you can use the uplift tubes in the corners to circulate the water/Spirulina. And solve the issue that people seam to have with little circulation in the corners.

                              The air pump is a "kill two birds with one stone" kind of tool - if used the way I said above. I'll be getting some battery backup ones, in case the power goes out.

                              With air pumps, you'll also need air lines and one way check values (you don't want the Spirulina and medium being sucked back into the air pump when the power goes out or when the pump fails).

                              Will need a filter, to filter the air - for Spirulina, something simple just to minimise the house dust entering the bottles through the air pump. The high pH should prevent anything else from growing with the Spirulina.

                              If your going to grow other algae (which I'm thinking of doing later on), more robust filters will be needed possibly UV ones.


                              Light source:
                              The cheapest source is natural sunlight, only issue is the UV and the heat. I'm still looking at how to make a UV screen filter - I may just buy a sheet of film that you can get to stick to your windows, to minimise the UV and inferred. My only concern is the drop in the amount of other wave lengths that it lets through. Only a real problem in the winter on non sunny days, and over cast days where it could be an issue. I just reread what I just wrote and it hit me, that on those days - the filter won't be needed as much.

                              I'll be testing LED grow lights that I make, once I have my basic growing system producing Spirulina.


                              Heating/cooling:
                              To heat the water to the right temp, I'll be getting an aquarium heater, depending on how much volume I have to heat. For the bottle setup I'll probably end up with a tank, into which I'll fill with water and then place the bottles - the larger water volume will prevent sudden temp changes and dissipate the IR/heat from natural sunlight. To ensure an even temp, the trusty uplift tubes will also be employed.

                              In the summer I may end up having to cool the tank quite a bit as the main windows of the house are all south facing. I'll be looking at either buying an aquarium chillier, unlikely as they are too expensive for what they do, and I could buy a normal freezer for the same amount of money.

                              Or building a cheap heat exchanger, using 4L ice cream tubs filled with water that's been frozen into blocks of ice. Which I make in my normal freezer, and just keep rotating the tubs.


                              Measurement/testing:
                              I bought and just received a pack of 10 aquarium thermometers (they were cheap on ebay, cost me 99p each with free shipping - cheaper than buying individual ones and if I have multiple grow bottles - I'll need more than a couple).

                              I've got my eye on some cheap Microscopes (it may not actually be needed to grow Spirulina - but would be fun to have). I'm looking at the cheap ones you can buy children (sorta like the chemistry sets, but these ones are a biology/bug set - with upto 600x magnification on the Microscopes). I may not need the Microscope as on ebay you can get a portable jewellers loupe/Microscope which does upto 200x magnification for about 6 ($10 or so).

                              pH test kit - on ebay, the digital ones are quite cheap, found one for about 6 with shipping from china. Will still need to buy calibration fluid as it doesn't come with it (about 3 - 4 [1 is about $1.59 - as of this posting]). With the amount of testing one would be doing, I'd want to make sure the thing is always calibrated - especially before harvesting.

                              You could instead get an aquarium pH test kit - some will end up costing more than the digital one and the calibration fluid. You’ll need the high range test kits, or one that does a wide range (check to make sure it goes up past a pH of 10). One word of warning, not all brands of a aquarium test kits are equal, nor are they that accurate - they only give you an approximation of the levels your testing for. One thing they all have in common is they cost a lot, test kits seam to be the only thing in the aquarium hobby market that you can’t easily DIY yourself (unless your a chemist with a lab).

                              Secchi disk will also be needed, to determine the amount of Spirulina.

                              Harvisting:
                              Getting the 50 micron cloth is looking to be an issue as I have only found fish tank/biodiesel filter socks on ebay. On alibaba.com I have seen 50 micron steel mesh and nylon mesh cloth, but they require large order quantiys.

                              The filter socks will do, although they are quite think and will only know if they actually work once I use them.
                              Last edited by Savvypro; 01-22-2011, 05:32 PM.
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                              . . .
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